Federal employees have the right to a workplace free from recognized hazards [29 CFR 1960.8(a)]. When employees get hurt or become ill as a result of their job exposures, they are entitled to workers' compensation benefits, including medical care, wage loss replacement, and vocational rehabilitation, among others.
Federal employees also have responsibilities—reporting injuries and illnesses, filing claims for compensation in a timely manner, and returning to work when medically cleared.
Many of these rights and responsibilities are not communicated to TSA employees, and if they are, the information is often wrong or misguided. Sometimes employees are denied the right to file, transmittal of their claims is delayed, claims are controverted, and employees are forced to return to work too soon for fear of losing their jobs.
To help you protect your rights—and your health and safety—AFGE is providing the following information:
In July 2010, AFGE Health and Safety Specialist Milly Rodríguez testified on behalf of AFGE before the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia. While she testified on health and safety issues in the entire federal government, Rodríguez specifically discussed workplace exposure to ionizing radiation at TSA—which has been an issue since the agency's inception. TSA has held the position that there is no harmful exposure from radiation emissions from the X-ray machines used to view the contents of checked baggage as well as carry-on baggage. AFGE offered to conduct an independent study of radiation emissions, but TSA declined the offer. AFGE also offered to fund the purchase of dosimeters (which measure exposure to radiation) but TSA said TSOs are not allowed to wear dosimeters not issued by TSA, even though they refuse to provide them. TSA's position is that the agency has done the necessary testing and is not required by any applicable standards to issue dosimeters to its employees.
We know TSOs continue to be concerned about radiation. The lack of information, the agency's refusal to provide dosimeters, and the unsafe work practices TSOs implemented by TSA, contribute to TSOs' fears about radiation and its health effects. This year, AFGE locals in Boston and San Juan raised concerns about cancer deaths and diagnosis of thyroid conditions that appeared to be higher than expected. Their actions lead to studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and while the studies did not find excess cancers that could be attributed to radiation exposure, TSOs are still concerned about the effects of long-term exposures.